The drivers in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship were greeted with weather more in keeping with November than 15th August for the first heat at the Nürburgring. A heavy shower hit the Eifel Massif just a few minutes before the start. All the cars came to the grid on grooved tyres, and then the track suddenly began to dry out so everybody swapped to slicks with the exception of Spike Goddard (Three Bond with T-Sport), Michele Beretta (Eurointernational) and newcomer Wing Chung Chang (Team West Tech F3).
Verstappen on pole made the best start, but was almost immediately passed by Antonio Fuoco as the drivers who had opted for wet weather tyres carved their way through the field. Goddard who started from the antepenultimate row picked off his rivals one by one and took the lead on lap 6 from Verstappen, while Fuoco fell back to third after going straight on in the first corner. Antonio Giovinazzi and Wing Chung Chang were then lying fourth and fifth.
It didn’t rain, the track dried out and the drivers on slicks fought back as those on wet weather rubber tumbled down the time sheets. Verstappen settled into first place and stayed there till the chequered flag despite coming under intense pressure from Fuoco and Giovinazzi.
“This track dries very quickly,” explained the Dutchman. “So the best solution was to start on slicks even if I knew that the opening laps would be tricky. Antonio Fuoco overtook me and then I took advantage of a mistake on his part to repass him. Spike Goddard immediately went ahead, but I knew he’d run into problems with his rain tyres. Thus, he slowed and we profited from this. It’s my first victory in the Red Bull colours but honestly that doesn’t change my approach.”
Thanks to his eighth win of the season Verstappen has taken points off his main rivals for the title as Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) and the championship leader, Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam), finished fifth and sixth respectively. The gap between Ocon and Verstappen is 77 points after the first of the weekend’s three races.
But in the second race, the leading foursome ran nose to tail until lap 19 when Verstappen suddenly slowed and retired due to a technical problem. The Red Bull driver left the door open for Giovinazzi who scored his second victory in the FIA F3 European Championship. “I made a good start and I was in close contact with Max Verstappen throughout the race,” analysed the Italian. “But honestly, without his problem I don’t think I’d have been able to pass him. It’s really tough luck for him but that’s racing. I’ll take this victory and I’m satisfied with it.” (FIA)